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  • Viewpoint: Discover Your Distinction — 3 Reasons to Put Practice Brand Strategy First

    Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.
    The adage, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” aptly applies to marketing your practice. Adapting this to today’s ophthalmic practice, “Don’t put marketing and sales before your brand.”

    Like the horse, your practice brand powers all of the actions you’ll take to attract new patients to your practice. Specifically, your brand distinction will help you build a marketing and patient engagement process that will fill your patient pipeline and keep your doctors busy doing what they do best.

    If you haven’t yet done the strategic work necessary to discover and effectively communicate your brand distinction, both inside and outside your organization, here’s why you should prioritize it this year:

    1. Tactics Looking for a Strategy
    Your brand distinction informs your overarching marketing and patient engagement strategy. When you go to market, you need to be able to tell prospective patients why you’re different from the practice across the street. If you can’t do that, it’s hard to create a marketing strategy that will effectively drive return on investment (ROI).

    I’ve consulted with too many practices that felt that there was something wrong or broken with their approach to marketing and patient engagement. The tactics and channels weren’t ineffective. The messaging was. They had tactics looking for a strategy, which is a great way to spend a budget, and not much else.

    2. Brand Discovery Aligns Your Team
    Marketing is a core business function. It’s seen as a cost center, but that’s only if your doctors and leadership team has not bought in. When your team is aligned, marketing is rightfully seen as a revenue center. There’s demonstrable ROI for every dollar that leaves the practice. To tell that story, it’s paramount to do the upfront brand strategy work that aligns your organization from the doctors and leadership team down.

    The reason is simple: Every single person in your practice needs to deliver on your brand promise every day, in every interaction. When that happens, it creates a consistently positive and memorable patient experience — a key ingredient in marketing and patient engagement  success.

    3. Brand Informs the Patient Experience
    Your brand promise (what you tell prospective patients you’ll deliver) and your brand performance (what you actually deliver) create your patient experience. For your brand and practice to flourish, it has to deliver on its promise. If it doesn’t, no marketing strategy, tactic or trick will be able to undo bad online sentiment and word of mouth that poor patient experience creates.

    In contrast, positive patient experience is one of the greatest marketing and sales assets you can possibly have. From positive word of mouth to a pipeline of patient referrals, creating a positive patient experience has untold benefits for your practice. That all starts with discovering your brand distinction.

    Discover Your Brand With These 3 Questions
    Can you and your team answer the questions below?: 
    • Who are you today?
    • What do you do differently?
    • What are you capable of becoming?
    Are your answers similar? If not, it’s important that you prioritize discovering your brand distinction. It will ensure that your marketing and patient engagement efforts have the impact they should.

    About the Author

    Jim Flynn is the executive vice president and chief brand strategist at ONEFIRE, a healthcare marketing agency specializing in maximizing revenue generation potential for ophthalmology practices, specialty and sub-specialty clinics, hospitals, and medical device manufacturers. You can reach him at